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Bone Densitometry


What is bone densitometry?

Bone densitometry is a scan (test) that measures bone density. A loss of density may increase your risk for osteoporosis. Bone densitometry is also called a dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) scan. DXA scans use x-rays to show if your bones have lost minerals, such as calcium, causing them to become weak. DXA scans are usually done on your hip, spine, or forearm. A DXA scan can also be done of your entire body.

Why do I need a DXA scan?

You may need a DXA scan to diagnose osteoporosis, or to check your risk of bone fractures. Your healthcare provider can also monitor changes in your bone density. A DXA scan is recommended for healthy women 65 years or older, and healthy men 70 years or older. The scan is also recommended for younger women and men who are at high risk for bone loss.

What increases my risk for bone loss?

  • Eating foods low in calcium or vitamin D
  • Low body weight or low estrogen levels in women
  • Health conditions such as diabetes, overactive thyroid, or celiac disease
  • Medicines such as steroids, and androgen deprivation therapy for men
  • Previous bone fracture
  • Prolonged immobilization
  • Smoking or abuse of alcohol

What do I need to know about bone densitometry?

  • Before your DXA scan you may be told not to take calcium supplements the day of your scan. Remove any metal that is near the body area being scanned. This includes jewelry, clothing with zippers, coins, body piercings, or an underwire bra.
  • During the scan you will lie on the DXA scan table. The scanner will pass over the area and take pictures. Keep still during your scan so the pictures of your bones are clear. The DXA scan lasts between 10 and 30 minutes, depending on the area being scanned.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You will be late or cannot make it to your DXA scan.
  • You think you are pregnant.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You fall and think you may have a bone fracture.
  • Your condition or symptoms suddenly get worse.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.